Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Buses are always late so I am on foot most of the time, half running half walking to here and there, I dont know why- except for pure vanity, but I will never do joggers! It is is hard to find the perfect, practical, good looking shoe.There seems to be an abundant of shoes in the world, so many choices so many styles however it is often hard to find that good quality well designed footwear. An even harder task is finding a shoe produced in Australia. The lovely Melbourne based designer Kristy Barber has added footwear to her womenswear label Kuwaii and in doing so, has rejuvenated my enthusiasm of shoe shopping. Made in a local family run factory with reclaimed leather as well as being beautifully designed, Kuwaiis' new range is extraordinarily tempting.

Why fashion?
I started as a love for making things and an interest in how garments were put together, it was a very natural progression to study fashion and then to start a label.

Can you introduce us to Kuwaii?
Kuwaii is based in Brunswick, Melbourne, and is a personal philosophy of dressing. Each piece is carefully considered- effortless and refined so that these are garments to live in.
Our emphasis is on interesting and meaningful garments. The concept for the label was always a more old Fashioned approach- a return to quality throughout all processes. I wanted to produce beautiful pieces made to last and for their owners to treasure. We focus on workmanship, fabrics, and finishes. Whilst being both stylised and subtly poetic, I hope that Kuwaii garments are intelligent in both their design and production processes. Kuwaii pieces are made locally in Australia, with a strong commitment in excellence in manufacture and supporting the local industry, with the manufacturing process being overseen 100% by Kuwaii to ensure all garments are produced ethically.

You have recently added a shoe range to the label. Why the move into footwear?
It was a lucky collaboration really, I met the shoe manufacturer who were keen to work with a more emerging designer to produce a small collection of footwear. I have always wanted Kuwaii to have a more holistic approach – I guess a lifestyle – so the move into footwear has been amazing, and I've just been so proud of the product – how great the quality is, how comfortable they are, how well they wear, and how ethically they are produced. And I've been so happy with the response from my customers too!

Where and who produces your shoes?
They're produced in Melbourne suburb Clifton Hill, by a small, family owned factory who has been operating for 30 years and who of course oversee the entire production process themselves meaning that these shoes are produced in an non-exploitative environment, 100%.

Why Melbourne for production? Why is this important to you?
This week I met with a knit wear manufacturer and it was completely heart wrenching to hear his stories (and see his photo albums) from when he operated a bustling factory in the 90s employing 65 people, and having state of the art knit wear machinery, to now employing 5 people and having to send his knit machines to scrap metal as there is just no use for them anymore. Personally I don't believe we should discard the skill set and trade of our country. I feel very strongly about keeping trade and industry on shore and supporting the industry here. It's a sort of patriotism and wanting to support and build upon the community here within our shores, and not letting go of the rag trade history we've had.

What inspires each collection?
One thing with producing on shore is that we're slightly more limited with the possibilities of producing designs – limited by the machines the factory has available and how long things take to produce. So I definitely work within parameters given to me by the factory. We devise silhouettes, decide on colours, textures, stitiching details, perforations, linings, laces. The inspiration and colours for the footwear definitely reflects Kuwaii's clothing inspiration for the season and the shoes are devised to be pieced back to any of the Kuwaii garments.

What's next for Kuwaii?
We would love to open a flagship store! At the moment we sell out of our showroom space in Brunswick, which our studio is behind, which is a super cute way to meet our customers, but our dream is to open Kuwaii land … We also recently secured our first international stockist!

Find Kuwaii here

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